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Cannabis in Foods

Sharon Palmer

I get so many questions on the benefits and risks related to cannabis in foods. Considering more states, like my home state of California, are legalizing marijuana, it’s an important issue to tackle. That’s why I sat down with friend and cannabis nutrition expert Janice Newell Bissex, MS, RDN of Jannabis Wellness to answer all of your questions about cannabis in the diet.

CannabisJanice.com at a nutrition conference. 

Sharon: Are there any benefits for consuming cannabis food products?

Janice: Yes! Cannabis-infused food products, otherwise known as edibles, have seen increased interest for three main reasons: it is a more discreet and convenient way to ingest, the effect is longer lasting (up to eight hours), and toxins that may be formed when smoking cannabis are avoided.

Sharon: Are there any risks?

Janice: It’s important to note that edibles affect everyone differently, based on a number of factors:  The type and potency of the edibles, individual tolerance and body chemistry, and how much and what has been eaten before consuming.

Knowing the potency of the edible is critical. First-time users should start with a maximum dose of 2 to 5 mg THC (labeled when purchased from dispensaries). The goal is to use the ‘minimum effective dose’ to get the results you are looking for.

Timing is very different when using edibles, versus smoking and other delivery methods. With smoking or vaping, the effect is felt in minutes, allowing you to reach the desired result in a very short amount of time.  Tinctures typically work within 15 minutes. With edibles, it can take 30 minutes to two hours to feel the full effect.

Individuals may get impatient when they don’t feel anything, and may be tempted to take an additional dose (or bite). Health professionals would strongly caution against this, because the “high” may become too strong later on, to the point of being uncomfortable. Another potential issue is that people may eat a cannabis edible because it may not be labeled and looks like a treat.

Sharon: What about the potential for over-consumption in foods? What are some good guidelines for safe consumption?

Janice: The best advice is to start low and go slow. Experimenting with small doses to determine the right amount to consume is a smart approach. Unfortunately, many people who have consumed edibles have a story about eating too many edibles and feeling uncomfortable.

If someone over-consumes an edible and feels “too high”, it’s advisable to avoid eating foods high in fat, as they may increase and prolong these feelings. Instead, it’s best to snack on fruits or vegetables, and wait out the most intense feelings. The worst-case scenario typically involves strong feelings of anxiety, paranoia, and discomfort. The good news is that no one has died from overconsuming cannabis.

Cannabis, Janice Newell Bissex, MS, RDN, Holistic Cannabis Practitioner, Culinary Nutritionist

Sharon: What are the current legal standards for consuming cannabis foods?

Janice: Recreational marijuana is legal in nine states and medical marijuana is legal in 29 states. Edibles are available at most dispensaries. In the 29 states with medical marijuana laws, it is required that you have a medical marijuana card in order to enter the dispensaries that sell edibles. If under 18-years old, the patient must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

You must be 21 years of age or older to purchase recreational/adult-use cannabis edibles. Regulations may differ in each state, but in general, there is a limit on the amount of edibles you may purchase at each visit. The standard portion size is often 10mg THC. Again, beginners should start with no more than a half portion.

Sharon: What kinds of food products can people find cannabis in today?

Janice: Dispensaries may offer gummies, brownies, cookies, granola bars, trail mixes, chocolate, honey, and drinks (coffee, tea, soda), butter, and oils. Interestingly, some states, including Colorado, have banned cannabis gummy bears and gummies in the shape of any animal, fruit, or people. This is to make them less appealing to children.

Traditionally, edibles have been mostly high in sugar and not particularly “healthy.” This is changing slowly. Cloud Creamery is a cannabis ice cream company entering the market that does not use sugar, and uses local and sustainable ingredients, including fruits and vegetables!

To extend the window of relief provided by an edible it’s best to consume it in or with foods high in protein and fat.

Sharon: If people want to make their own cannabis food products, what are your best tips for doing this?

Janice: For those interested in making their own edibles, there are books and online resources (such as leafly.com and herb.co) with tutorials. It’s not as simple as sprinkling chopped cannabis leaves in a brownie mix! The cannabis flowers or buds must be activated via a process called decarboxylation (heating at about 220 degrees F for 30 to 45 minutes) before being incorporated into a carrier fat to cook with.

It’s a bit of a challenge to determine how much of a homemade edible to consume to get the proper dose when you make it yourself. However, there are labs that will analyze your cannabis-infused butter or oil or edibles for $50.00 – $100.00.

For more information on cannabis and wellness, please visit Janice’s website JannabisWellness.com. She has a wonderful collection of research studies on the health benefits of marijuana. She will be posting some healthy edible recipes in the near future!

Janice Newell Bissex is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, cookbook author, speaker, and Holistic Cannabis Practitioner. She spent much of her career creating recipes and educating families about healthy cooking and eating at Meal Makeover Moms and Janice Cooks.

After her dad finally found relief from his pain using medical marijuana it became Janice’s mission to help others suffering from chronic pain, anxiety, insomnia, autoimmune disorders, and other debilitating conditions find relief using cannabis.

She completed training at the Holistic Cannabis Academy, and now advises clients on access, proper cannabinoid ratios, dosing, best consumption methods, and cooking with cannabis at her new business, Jannabis Wellness. She partnered with an organic grow in Colorado to provide phytocannabinoid-rich hemp products to her clients under her Jannabis Wellness label.

Main image: Cannabis, Janice Newell Bissex, MS, RDN, Holistic Cannabis Practitioner, Culinary Nutritionist

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